The 2015 Billboard Music Awards was a Taylor Swift affair. The ceremony opened with her much-anticipated futuristic revenge fantasy video for “Bad Blood,” and the night continued to work in her favor. Taylor nabbed eight awards – including Top Artist – and even engaged in some congratulatory PDA with her rumored beau, Calvin Harris.
“This is such a good night!” she gushed more than once.
Van Halen delivered the first performance of the night, a rocking rendition of “Panama.” Frontman David Lee Roth gave a bizarre flirtatious call-out to Nicki Minaj during the song. “I’m gonna reach down between my legs and I’m gonna get Nicki Minaj to help me ease my seat back," he sang. Nicki performed two songs later in the show, but didn't acknowledge the mention.
One Direction took home the first televised award of the night, for Top Duo/Group, and they acknowledged departed member Zayn Malik in their acceptance speech. “We share this with our brother Zayn,” Liam Payne said.
Fall Out Boy was joined on stage by rapper Wiz Khalifa to perform their hit “Uma Thurman” in a Pulp Fiction-themed performance complete with Uma lookalike dancers. Wiz later returned to the stage with Charlie Puth to perform their hit from the Furious 7 soundtrack, “See You Again,” with Lindsey Stirling on the violin. The crowd cheered loudly when an image of the late Paul Walker appeared on the screen behind them.
Mariah Carey took the Billboard stage for the first time in 17 years. Mariah, who recently battled bronchitis and had to cancel a Wednesday performance of her Las Vegas residency show, sang a portion of her first No. 1 hit, “Vision of Love” – which celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday – before breaking into her latest single, “Infinity.”
Vegas staple Celine Dion presented the Top Male Artist award to Sam Smith, who accepted the prize from New York, where he is recovering from vocal cord surgery. He can’t speak, so instead he held up handwritten cue cards that expressed his gratitude and gave shout-outs to famous pals Swift and Ed Sheeran. Smith won three awards total, including Top Radio Songs Artist and Top New Artist.
Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea performed their new song “Pretty Girls” for the first time live. Their performance took place at the AXIS Theater at Planet Hollywood, where Britney has her residency show. In keeping with their space-themed video, they opened with a hologram effect that made it appear as if they were teleported onto the stage.
Spears – clad in a sexy black cutout bodysuit – showed she’s fully recovered from her ankle injury by giving an energetic dance performance. Azalea, who took home three awards including Top Rap Artist, debuted a shorter haircut with pink-colored ends.
The night also paid tribute to two major losses in the music world: blues legend B.B. King, who passed away on Thursday, and soul singer Ben E. King, who died late last month. Imagine Dragons performed a stripped-down version of Ben E. King’s classic, “Stand By Me.”
Kanye West, introduced by his sisters-in-law Kendall and Kylie Jenner, closed out the show with a mostly-bleeped-out performance of “All Day” and his 2013 song “Black Skinhead.” Not only were the majority of the lyrics muted, but the over-the-top pyrotechnics seemed to engulf most of the stage, making Kanye barely visible.
The three-hour show, broadcast live on ABC from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, was hosted by Ludacris and Chrissy Teigen.
The night's lineup also included:
Nick Jonas, “Jealous”
Meghan Trainor and John Legend, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”
Ed Sheeran, “Bloodstream”
Pitbull and Chris Brown, “Fun”
Kelly Clarkson, “Invincible”
Hozier, “Take Me to Church”
Little Big Town and Faith Hill, “Girl Crush”
Tori Kelly, “Nobody Love”
Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
Nicki Minaj and David Guetta, “The Night is Still Young” and “Hey Mama”
Empire stars Jussie Smollett & Bryshere “Yazz” Gray, and Estelle, “Conqueror” and “You’re So Beautiful”